Breaking the Misconception - Bastar is safe for us

A seemingly sound chap from the group randomly averred… lets plan Bastar this weekend. “I have heard a lot about the Chitrakoot falls and the unique tribal culture”, he added to the excitement, of his and the others. However, giving up against the rebuttals, everything winded up around the obvious hesitation of not visiting the place and is, frankly speaking, an alarming outline of every such idea- the armed rebels i.e., Naxals.

Witnessing it quite curiously, it eventually forced me to pop the bubble through this informative piece.

So to begin, Chhattisgarh - with its virgin forests and magnificent landscape has always been a backpacker No wonder that last year it had two million visitors, equal to that of Amsterdam (yes, genuinely). The State which boasts ofnumerous waterfalls and plateaus, variety of flora and fauna, national parks, temples and rich tribal arts, also faces a grim threat from Naxalism. But what remains shallow is, despite the fact that Naxalite activities are mostly limited to the border areas of the State, its psychological impact is significantly higher. Only after tourists arrive in Indias first Greenfield city Raipur, the state capital, either via its modern airport or railway station, they realise that Chhattisgarh is no different from Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh. Having said that, I am not here to discuss the menace of Naxalism or the hampered development in the Bastar region rather, I would like to throw light on the side less known. I have visited Bastar more than couple of times and my own experience convincingly allows me to brag that "Bastar has always remained the safest tourist spot, like any other".

Readers are obviously allowed to giggle and have different opinions on what I write but the fact remains the same that in general -Bastar is all safe, only if you dont toss common sense to the winds. With an exception of a few incidents, Bastar is no more perilous. Raipur and Jagdalpur are as safe as any other typical Indian city.  You can see the hustle bustle of a normal small-town city in Jagdalpur (which is the heart and capital of Bastar district). There will be slightest oddities as one can see a lot of tribal people roaming around freely as we see during the Bastar Dusshera season for which it is famously known. The places to visit are Chitradhara Jagdalpur, TamraGhoomar waterfalls, Barsur village, Chitrakot waterfalls, Danteshwari temple, Bastar Palace, Kailash and Kotumsar caves, Tirathgarh waterfalls among others.Talking about its populace, Gond, Abujmaria, Bisonhorn, Maria, Muria, Halba, Bhatra, Parja and Dhurvaa are the main tribes of Bastar. The tribals are a bit shy, but friendly - they are as curious to see visitors as visitors themselves! They will extend a warm welcome to you only if they realize that they are not treated as objects of exhibition. Each tribe has its own history, social & religious customs and distinct culture of music, food and dress, which is worth learning. Dance is an important part of the tribal culture in Bastar. There are various forms of tribal dances in Bastar, which include the Saila, Suwa and Karma forms. All these form of folk dances involve complex footwork and are characterized by their robustness & earthiness. The region still hasnt caught the fancy of many people, but if you are looking for a secluded as well as an adventurous holiday, then Bastar is the ideal place for you. Just one safety tip: have a local guide with you all the time, as the place is surrounded by dense forest in which it is easy to get lost.Nonetheless, thats an adventure in itself.  I would like to share my astonishing experience in Bastar and with my experience I can say that Bastar proudly upholds a deep rooted ancient way of tribal life that cant be found anywhere else in India.

Bastar, also called the land of tribals, is home to Bison Horn Maria, Abhuj Maria, Muria, Bhatra, Dhurva, Halba, Dorla and Gadba tribal communities. Life in Bastar is abundant of rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.A place that has so much to offer that we cannot ignore a single aspect of it. The best part of my Bastar trip was a visit to the weekly haat (Market) where I got to interact with tribal people. These weekly markets are places of recreation, social interactions and business hub. In one of the interactions, I was told about Tribals love towards nature and environment. Everyone in the Haat (market) was cooperative and helpful while offering us vegetables, local drinks and Bastar art and crafts.  One of the tribal women asked me to buy their local drink famously called Mahua. Further she added that Mahua is prepared from flowers of a tree called by the same name - Mahua. It has strong alcohol content with a pungent taste to it. Generally, the Mahua Liquor is sold in bottles or in leaf cups (Bio-degradable cups made by tribes using leaves). For tribes in Bastar region this drink is a cultural heritage- both men and women drink Mahua during dance and music celebrations.  The next thing I witnessed near to the Haaat was a Cockfight - Cockfights are considered a distinctive mark of Bastar tribal cultural identity—in the way that bullfighting is to Spaniards; one such cockfight, in fact, shaped the historical fortunes of the neighbouring erstwhile princely state of Vijayanagaram. After spending time at Haat, I visited Bakel village. Bakel is a village with 523 families residing there. I was warmly welcomed by one of the families that owned a marginally small Kirana store. The owner of the kirana store told me that they serve chutney famously called Chapura, made of red ants. I was amused and thrilled at the same time to have the exclusive privilege to experience the richest culture of Bastar.

 

Our driver Bhisam who belonged to Bastar told us that these tribal communities still practice the ancient tradition and rituals. I was amazed to know their dedication towards worshipping God and nature. The wedding rituals among the tribals are unique where unmarried girls and boys are free to choose their partners. There is a place called Ghotul for Muria tribes which is an exclusive living space to find partners. I got to spent three days where I learnt several new things about tribes and their traditions. With all these learning, my Bastar trip came to an end with lots of memories and understanding of rich tradition and culture.

 

Prior to this awesome trip, I too had a misconception about Bastar but then realization dawned upon me that, the Naxalite attacks are taking place in areas which are far off from the tourist sites being promoted by the state government and most of them are even political in nature. I came back with a different attitude, much of it positive, as against the previous, and believe me I cant wait to go back to Bastar because if you are willing to put up with the strenuous aspects of the place, youll be rewarded with the most memorable travel experience of your life.

Bon Voyage!J

Meanwhile we can and must say, Jai Johar, Jai Chhattisgarh.

JinendraParakh (The author is pursuing BA. LL.B. (Hons.) from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh) .You can reach author at: jinendra.hnlu@gmail.com 

Tag: Bastar

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